LONDON // Rupert Murdoch blamed News of the World journalists for conspiring to cover up a culture of phone-hacking at the tabloid, saying they hid their activities from his son James and protegee Rebekah Brooks and that he personally was not paying attention.
In a second day of testimony yesterday, Mr Murdoch painted a picture of a rogue culture at the best-selling Sunday tabloid, in an echo of his company's now abandoned defence that a single "rogue reporter" was to blame.
"I think in newspapers, the reporters do act very much on their own, they do protect their sources, they don't disclose to their colleagues what they are doing," Mr Murdoch told a judicial inquiry into press ethics.
Showing frequent flashes of annoyance as the questioning became more pointed, the media mogul admitted he had not paid enough attention to the News of the World but did not accept that he had allowed a culture of illegality to flourish.
Asked where the culture of cover-up had originated, Mr Murdoch answered: "I think from within the News of the World. There were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many years and were friends of the journalists.
"The person I'm thinking of was a friend of the journalists and a drinking pal and clever lawyer and forbade them ... to report to Mrs Brooks or to James," said Mr Murdoch, in a thinly veiled reference to the News of the World's former top lawyer Tom Crone, who has accused James Murdoch of lying.
"That's not to excuse on our behalf at all. I take it extremely seriously that that situation had arisen."
The appearance at the inquiry of a man who has courted prime ministers and presidents for the past 40 years is a defining moment in a scandal that has unveiled collusion between British politicians, police and Murdoch's News Corp.